Archive for the 'Rachel Elmalawany' Category

Farewell, UTA Department of English!

It’s the end of the Spring semester and time for me to leave UTA. I thought I’d leave by sharing this wonderful anecdote about phonemes, morphemes and plain old sound-it-out fun.

This evening, as I basked in not having to work on any assignments, my husband and I were spending our time browsing the web and listening to the news.

All of a sudden, my husband asks, “What is hypocrites?” I was a little surprised, because I know English is his second language, but he has a very good handle on usage and vocabulary. I thought he knew what a hypocrite is, because I briefly remembered that word being used in our marriage before.

“A hypocrite?” I asked in surprise.

“Yeah, h-i-p-p-o-c-r-a-t-e-s.”

“Hmm, that sounds like someone who just doesn’t know how to spell hypocrite. It’s h-y-p…”

“It says, ‘Hypocrites used honey in many different ways.’”

I burst out with sudden enlightenment. “Oh! Hippocrates, the Greek physician!”

The beauty of language never ceases to amaze me.

Published in:Rachel Elmalawany |on May 10th, 2013 |No Comments »

A final lesson on your vs. you’re

Published in:Rachel Elmalawany |on March 20th, 2013 |No Comments »

Hush, hush

Rachel Elmalawany – I’m an English and journalism senior. I’ve been invited to post student perspectives of the English department on the English Matters blog. I write columns for UTA’s student newspaper, The Shorthorn, both online and in print. I freelance for trade magazines and blogs (yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds!) between studying, volunteering, internships and running a household. I enjoy theory almost as much as theory enjoys me, and have an uncanny appreciation for the power of words.

Here’s a little nursery rhyme which I’m sure is at least slightly relatable:

Hush little English student, don’t say a word,
Your professor’s going to grade you on a curve.

If that curve doesn’t ease your mind,
You can go home and have a glass of wine.

If that wine doesn’t help you forget,
Just remember when you’re done, you’ll have a lot of debt.

If that debt doesn’t make you work hard,
You can always live in your mom’s backyard.

If that backyard doesn’t sound like fun,
Then now is the time to take action.

If that action doesn’t give results,
Then maybe you should pick another major.

Published in:Rachel Elmalawany |on March 5th, 2013 |No Comments »

Divine technology?

In light of recent advancements in technology and pedagogical attempts at evolving alongside it, consider the following:

If humanity relies on technology, it will cause them to be forgetful; they will stop using their minds because they will rely too much on technology to do the thinking for them, not by their own critical thinking, but by means of algorithms and binary code. What we have discovered is not a recipe for learning and knowing, but for empty exposure to more ideas than we’d ever be able to absorb. It is no real knowledge that you offer your students if you allow technology in your teaching, but only something that seems like knowledge.  It will only seem as though they are learning effectively, while for the most part they learn nothing, and as students filled, not with wisdom but the idea of wisdom, they will be a burden to society.

If you are familiar with Plato, then what I’ve written will sound strikingly similar to Plato’s own words:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”

…which we remember because someone wrote it down…

Plato’s lived in an oratory culture.  I myself am constantly exposed to oral tradition through intense memorization of the Qur’an which follows strict rules of recitation.  Speaking through a double lens, straddling ancient tradition and new-age developments, I ask myself – is one really better than the other?

It seems every generation bemoans the next, complaining of some old thing lost and some terrible, useless new thing gained.  Teachers hated erasers when manufactured on the ends of pencils, saying it would cause students to stop thinking about what they write before writing it, ruining their minds. Writing will make us forget, erasers will make us stop thinking.  Technology will make us mindless googly-eyed reading machines?

Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.  It seems that looking through history, any technological advance, including writing itself, was seen as a threat to higher thinking and humanity as a whole.  What we’ve really gained are tools which make learning and thinking easier, not dumber.  I swear if I had to remember everything my professors profess without note-taking, though I try hard, I’d certainly do worse on exams that I already have.

It is said in an Islamic tradition that the first thing created, even before the earth, was the pen and it was ordered to write.  Even Plato believed in to theion, the divine, though more in a ho theos, common noun type of way.   The pen is divine creation, Plato! If we apply this divine logic to present-day, can we say that laptops are divine too?  Because I really don’t know what I’d do without my online thesaurus.

Published in:Rachel Elmalawany, new media, pedagogy |on February 26th, 2013 |No Comments »